- Protests Escalate In Dhi-Qar, Wasit; Sadr’s Militia Deploys On Anniversary Of Deadly Attacks On Protesters; Debate Intensifies Over International Monitoring Of Elections – On February 5, security forces injured three protesters during new demonstrations in Nasiriyah demanding the release of kidnapped activists. Demonstrators gathered in Wasit province too to express solidarity with the Nasiriyah demonstrations. Iraq’s Interior Minister and National Security chief headed to Wasit to calm the situation amid fear of escalation. On February 8, Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia deployed on the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, and Karbala, setting up checkpoints in an apparent show of force. The aggressive deployment came shortly after activists in Najaf publicly denounced Sadr during an event commemorating victims of deadly attacks by Sadr’s followers on Najaf protesters last year. Security sources said gunmen “affiliated with a political group” carried out a string of raids on the homes of activists throughout Najaf. On February 9, the Iraqi Cabinet announced the formation of the Supreme Committee for Reform, a new entity meant to supervise and facilitate reform initiatives across state institutions. On February 10, IHEC announced that it extended the deadline to register electoral coalitions to February 27. On February 11, IHEC said it invited 71 countries and international organizations to observe the upcoming Iraqi election in October. Earlier this week, al-Mada reported that several political parties, including the Fatah Coalition and Nouri al-Maliki, have exerted pressure on the government to cancel calls for international monitoring, while others offered conditional approval. more…
- IEDs Target Coalition Supply Convoys And Baghdad Businesses; Turkey Attacks The PKK In Duhok – Between February 4 – 11, at least 11 IEDs and remnants of war exploded in various parts of Iraq, causing four injuries among civilians. Five of the explosions targeted trucks carrying supplies for the International Coalition, and two targeted businesses in Baghdad. On February 5, security forces disarmed an IED placed outside the Baghdad home of Army Aviation commander, Major General Samir al-Maliki. On February 5, gunmen attacked the Iraqi Communist Party office in Najaf with Molotov cocktails and gunfire. On February 8, gunmen shot an activist in Nasiriyah, and security forces disarmed an IED that was placed near the home of a local teacher nearby. Between February 5 – 10, seven other militant attacks killed at least two Iraqis and wounded 11 more. On February 6, unidentified attackers burned down a biometric voter registration center in Ninewa, and police prevented a second attack elsewhere in the province. On February 10, the Turkish military launched new air and ground operations against the PKK in the area of Mount Kara in Duhok province, killing eight PKK fighters. more…
- Iraq Reverses Position On Closing The Jedaa IDP Camp; Report Says 2.3 Million People Need Protection In Iraq; Health Officials Issue Warnings As COVID-19 Cases Rise Fast – On February 4, Iraq’s Minister of Migration denied earlier reports that said Iraq was shutting down the Jedaa 5 IDP camp, arguing that the government won’t close the camp anytime soon. On February 6, the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) returned the remains of 104 Yazidi victims of ISIS genocide to be buried in Kojo and Sinjar. On February 7, aid organizations reported a marked decrease in access restrictions affecting their work in Iraq. On February 7, schools in the Kurdistan region resumed in-school classes. On February 9, aid organizations forming the Protection Cluster in Iraq said that at least 2.3 million people will be in need of protection in 2021. On February 9, authorities executed five Iraqis convicted on terrorism charges. On February 11, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 636,908. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 13,144 while the number of patients currently in hospitals increased sharply to 19,950. To date, 6,038,814 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 6,108475 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases increased from 1,150/day during the 7-day period ending February 4 to 1,812 over the last 7-day period. The Health Ministry issued a new public health warning, saying that infections were rising quickly amid weak compliance with prevention measures. The ministry warned that downplaying the pandemic will exacerbate the situation and increase infections beyond the available capacity of hospitals. more…
- Iraq Struggles To Protect Farmers From Cheap Illegal Imports; Baghdad In Talks To Purchase Gas From The Kurdistan Region – On February 7, the head of the General Tax Authority said Iraq generated IQD3.8 trillion in tax revenues in 2020, an increase of 800 billion dinars from 2019. On February 7, the Ministry of Agriculture approved a plan to export 5,500 tons of potatoes to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. On February 10, the Ministry of Interior siad it deported 32,000 foreign workers, as part of a campaign to monitor illegal immigration and protect local jobs. On February 11, dozens of tomato farmers in Basra blocked the international highway with trucks filled with the crop. Farmers complained about merchants bribing border officials to smuggle cheap Iranian tomatoes, undercutting their ability to compete. The protests came days after PM Kadhimi formed a task force involving top security officials to protect Iraqi goods by monitoring the markets for smuggled agricultural products. On February 11, UAE’s Dana Gas said the Iraqi government entered into talks with the Pearl Consortium, of which Dana is a member, to purchase natural gas from the Khor Mor gas field in the Kurdistan Region. more…
Attention readers! ISHM will take a break next week while our team focuses on a critical research initiative concerning Iraq’s next election and political outlook. ISHM it will be back the week after, with comprehensive coverage of the week we missed.
For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.
On February 5, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released a progress report on the Independent High Electoral Commission’s (IHEC) preparations for elections on October 10. The report found that IHEC began important steps to strengthen the technical aspect of the electoral process, including inviting company bids to audit the electoral management IT systems and completing contracts to acquire new electronic vote-counting and voter verification devices. UNAMI pointed out that 14,869,360 voters, representing just under 60% of the 25,139,375 Iraqis registered to vote have been through the biometric identification process. The report showed that Diyala had the most biometric data, with 77%, while the lowest rates were in Anbar with 52%, Baghdad Karkh with 51%, Baghdad Rasafa with 48%, and Ninewa with 42%. IHEC also distributed 12,711,889 of the new biometric voter identification cards, which replace the canceled voter cards issued between 2013 and 2018. The report added that IHEC deployed 890 mobile teams to support the 1,079 fixed biometric voter registration offices, and plans to establish 58, 915 polling stations (each to serve roughly 400 voters) in the lead-up to the elections. IHEC also tasked a team with preparing plans for out-of-country voting (OCV), but it remains unclear which countries will have OCV. On February 8, UNAMI said the U.S. is providing $9.7 million to support IHEC. The grant, provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), aims to build up the institutional capabilities of IHEC and fund the deployment of UN advisors throughout the country.
On February 5, protesters held new demonstrations at Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah, demanding the release of kidnapped activist Sajjad al-Iraqi and accountability for other attacks that targeted protesters since 2019. Security forces opened fire with live ammunition, wounding three protesters after the crowd blocked off the Hadharat Bridge. Protesters threatened to escalate their action unless the government answered their demands. The same day, demonstrators gathered at the local government building in al-Kut in Wasit province to express solidarity with the Nasiriyah demonstrations. The protests prompted the intervention of Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi and his deputy for intelligence, Ahmed Abu Zaghaif, who arrived in Wasit to meet with demonstrators and hear their demands. A day later, Prime Minister Kadhimi sent National Security Agency head Abdul Ghani al-Asadi to speak with demonstrators. According to Iraqi News Agency, al-Asadi told protesters that infiltrators want to provoke an escalation, which the government wants to avoid, adding that he would work to answer their demands.
On February 7, the Anti-Corruption Commission issued an arrest warrant for the Director General of Investment in the Ministry of Electricity, Raad Qasem Mohammad, on corruption charges. On February 9, an Iraqi court sentenced the director of the Agricultural Bank, Adil Attiya Khudair, and four other bank employees, to six years in prison and a fine of IQD10 million after finding them guilty on corruption charges.
On February 8, the armed wing of the Sadrist movement, Saraya as-Salam, deployed its militiamen on the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, and Karbala, setting up checkpoints in an apparent show of force. Salih al-Iraqi, an aide to Sadr, claimed that the militias deployed to defend holy sites against a potential attack by “Baathists, ISIS, and some infiltrators.” A spokesman for Saraya as-Salam, Safaa al-Mousawi, claimed that the group’s movements were coordinated with Iraqi security forces, but Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi indirectly denounced the militia’s movements, stating that his government would not tolerate any transgressors in its mission to build up the Iraqi state. The aggressive deployments of Sadr’s militiamen came shortly after activists in Najaf publicly denounced Sadr during an event at the Writers Union building, held to commemorate the victims of deadly attacks by Sadr’s followers on Najaf protesters last year. After the gathering, security sources said gunmen “affiliated with a political group” carried out a string of raids on the homes of activists throughout Najaf. In Karbala, gunmen kidnapped and tortured activist Raed al-Daami, a member of the local protest organizing committee, before leaving him blindfolded and handcuffed in a cemetery. Daami said his captors interrogated him about his role in organizing an event to commemorate those killed in last year’s attacks in Najaf.
On February 8, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, while visiting Cairo for an Arab League ministerial meeting called for by Jordan and Egypt. A tripartite meeting on February 8 between Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Minister Hussein discussed the outcomes of the trilateral coordination mechanism the countries established in 2019, and preparations to hold the next trilateral summit meeting in Baghdad.
On February 8, the Erbil Provincial Council elected Omid Khoshnao of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as Erbil’s 42nd governor. The election took place three months after the former governor, Firsat Sofi, died of complications due to COVID-19.
On February 9, the Iraqi Cabinet announced the formation of the Supreme Committee for Reform, a new entity meant to oversee Iraq’s economic reform program. The Committee, which aims to supervise and facilitate reform initiatives across state institutions, consists of the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Finance, Planning, and Oil, the Central Bank Governor, several Cabinet members, and two international observers from the World Bank and the International Contact Group. Answering directly to the Prime Minister, the Committee will be tasked with integrating reform efforts between Ministries, promoting accountability, and ensuring the progress of current and future projects.
On February 10, an unnamed political source told Shafaq News that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi would step down from his role as head of Iraqi intelligence. The source stated that the State of Law Coalition, the Sadrist movement, and the Iraqi Forces Alliance are engaged in a fierce competition to name Kadhimi’s successor in the position, which he has held since 2016.
On February 10, IHEC announced that it extended the deadline to register electoral coalitions to February 27, 2021. IHEC said the extension aims to allow more coalitions to register, and give existing coalitions more time to update the information of the political parties listed under their umbrella.
On February 11, IHEC announced that it invited 71 countries and international organizations to observe the Iraqi elections on October 10. IHEC spokesperson Jumana al-Ghali stated that the invitations, which included both Arab and foreign countries, have been accepted by the United Nations and the European Union, both of which have sent advisors to assist the process and provide technical support. Earlier this week, al-Mada Paper reported that several political parties have exerted pressure on the government to prohibit international monitoring of the upcoming election. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki argued against giving the UN a supervisory role, saying that it represents a “violation of national sovereignty.” Fatah Coalition representative Hamed al-Mousawi accused UN involvement of being a conduit for interference “by hateful states that want no good for Iraq,” warning of a civil war if the UN oversaw the election results. Moqtada al-Sadr disagreed, stating on February 10 that “supervision is desirable,” so long as other countries do not attempt to interfere in Iraqi affairs. Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi and Hikma National Movement leader Ammar al-Hakim echoed Sadr’s position during a meeting on February 11. On February 9, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s adviser for election affairs, Abdul Hussein al-Hindawi, clarified the government’s position on international involvement in the elections, stating that “Iraqis are the ones who manage the elections in all their stages,” while the UN would perform monitoring and evaluation.
On February 4, U.N. security experts stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the ability of security forces to confront ISIS in conflict zones including Iraq. The experts warned that COVID restrictions do not deter ISIS elements from gathering and planning future attacks, while restricting the movements and capabilities of security forces. The report added that the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the economy also prolong the threat of ISIS by worsening some of the underlying causes of extremism, such as economic hardship and rampant unemployment.
On February 4, an improvised explosive device (IED) attached to a motorcycle detonated in al-Hawija district, west of Kirkuk. A security source said that the explosion caused no casualties.
On February 5, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said they killed a number of ISIS militants and destroyed three hideouts near Khanaqin in northeastern Diyala province. A PMF source said that PMF artillery and rocket fire targeted the ISIS stronghold in the Naft Khanna area of Diyala, where an ISIS ambush killed five PMF fighters on February 2.
On February 5, gunmen attacked the Iraqi Communist Party headquarters in Najaf with Molotov cocktails and gunfire. Party officials denounced the early morning attack, calling on the government to establish a monopoly on arms and prevent armed groups from carrying out attacks ahead of the upcoming elections in October.
On February 5, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint manned by Federal Police in Daquq, south of Kirkuk. The attack killed one police officer and wounded two others. The same day, a second ISIS attack wounded six more members of security forces in al-Rashad district, southwest of Kirkuk.
On February 5, unidentified gunmen wounded a doctor with small arms fire in an assassination attempt on the road to Khanaqin, northeast of Baquba.
On February 5, security forces disarmed an IED placed outside the home of Army Aviation commander, Major General Samir al-Maliki in the Mansour area of Baghdad. A security source said the IED was removed without incident.
On February 6, unidentified attackers burned down a biometric voter registration center in the Makhmour district of Ninewa. The same day, Ninewa police prevented a second arson attack on another biometric center in Qayyara, south of Mosul.
On February 6, Iraqi Army soldiers clashed with ISIS members in Amiriyat al-Fallujah in Anbar province. The firefight wounded one Iraqi Army soldier.
On February 7, an IED targeted a local supply convoy for the International Coalition near al-Musayyib in Babylon province. The next day, a second IED exploded amidst a Coalition supply convoy on a main highway through Diwaniyah. A police source also denied reports of a third IED striking a convoy in Samarra, stating that the bomb detonated on a civilian vehicle. On February 10, another IED hit a Coalition supply convoy on the main highway near Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. On February 11, an IED targeted another convoy transporting supplies for the Coalition on the main highway near Latifiya, south of Baghdad. There were no reports of casualties.
On February 7, an IED detonated outside of a liquor store in the al-Wahda neighborhood in southern Baghdad. The following day, an IED targeted a second liquor store in the Adhamiya Corniche area in northern Baghdad. Neither attack caused any casualties. According to NRT, a group called Ahl al-Marouf claimed responsibility for the bombing in Adhamiya, and claimed they burned a truck delivering alcohol to the store.
On February 8, gunmen shot activist Ali Imad in the Shamiyah area of Nasiriyah. The activist is receiving treatment in the hospital after sustaining four bullet wounds. Security forces also reported that they disarmed an IED that was placed near the home of a local teacher in the same area.
On February 9, an IED exploded on al-Binook Bridge in northeastern Baghdad, without causing casualties.
On February 10, the Turkish military launched an operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the area of Mount Kara in the Duhok province of the Kurdistan Region. The operation involved the deployment of Turkish army forces and airstrikes on uninhabited villages throughout Dinarta and Jumanki subdistricts, and killed eight PKK fighters.
On February 10, International Coalition airstrikes targeted ISIS positions near the Himrin mountains, south of Kirkuk. A security source confirmed that the strikes killed two ISIS militants. The next day, Iraqi F-16 fighter jets destroyed several hideouts and a cave used by ISIS in the Himrin mountains.
On February 10, an ISIS sniper killed an army soldier in an attack on an outpost near the Jalawla subdistrict of Diyala province. On February 11, an ISIS attack wounded one soldier at an army post near the village of al-Islah in the Jalawla subdistrict.
On February 10, a land mine exploded in the Rumaila desert in Basra province, injuring two employees of the Basra Oil Company.
On February 4, Iraq’s Minister of Migration and Displacement, Ivan Faeq Jabro, denied reports that Iraq was in the process of shutting down the Jedaa 5 camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Jabro told reporters that the Iraqi government won’t close the camp anytime soon. “It is still unknown until now when it will close, and maybe it will not close, because those who are living there still have problems with tribes, or their homes are completely destroyed,” the minister told AP. On February 1, al-Jazeera had reported that Iraqi authorities were telling IDPs residing at Jedaa 5 to either leave voluntarily or be evicted.
On February 6, the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) returned the remains of 104 Yazidi victims of ISIS genocidal attacks to be buried in their home districts of Kojo and Sinjar. A statement by the U.S. State Department said that the “evidence that UNITAD gathered from the site will help achieve justice for those who suffered from the horrors of ISIS.” Before the remains arrived in Sinjar, and after forensic tests confirmed the identity of the victims, the Iraqi government held a formal funeral service at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad. Iraq’s president, prime minister, and other dignitaries attended the service.
On February 7, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a decrease in the number of access restrictions affecting the work of aid organizations in Iraq. In December, there were 19 reports of access restrictions, down from an average of 70 a month during the preceding 11 months. Despite the marked decrease in obstacles, which OCHA attributes to the Iraqi authorities’ creation of a web-based system for granting access permits, there were lingering problems. The update points out that the few access issues in December impacted the timely delivery of aid to more than 200,000 recipients in Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din and Anbar province.
On February 7, schools in the Kurdistan region resumed in-school classes, which had been halted for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Education and Health Ministries in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued specific prevention guidelines for schools, including a mask mandate for all students, and reducing the number of students in classrooms and school buses.
On February 9, the aid organizations forming the Protection Cluster in Iraq issued an update on protection needs for 2021. The document highlighted that at least 2.3 million people, most of whom concentrated in six provinces, will be in need of protection in 2021. The document cites several factors as the primary causes of vulnerabilities. These include “coerced departures” of IDPs from camps and out-of-camp sites, dangers from explosives, violence against women and children, loss of documentation, perceptions of affiliation with extremis groups, as well as trauma, mental health issues, and the continuing effects of the pandemic.
On February 9, Iraqi authorities executed five Iraqis convicted on terrorism charges at the Nasiriyah Central Prison in southern Iraq. Two weeks earlier, Iraq had executed three other convicts amid rising calls for carrying out pending executions of hundreds of death row inmates who had been convicted on terrorism charges. The latest executions followed the double suicide bombings that killed more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad on January 21.
On February 11, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 636,908. This is an increase of 12,686 from the 624,222 reported on February 4. Of these cases, 19,950 are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 233 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). These numbers represent a sharp increase of 5,778 in hospitalizations and an increase of 41 in ICU admissions since February 4. Ministry data indicated that there were 53 new COVID-19 deaths since February 4, bringing the total from 13,091 to 13,144. The total number of recoveries increased from 596,959 to 6,038,814. The average number of new cases increased to 1,812 per day, compared to an average of 1,150 per day during the seven day period ending February 4. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 731 cases, Karbala with 336, Basra with 209 cases each, Wasit with 170 cases, and Babylon with 146 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 6,108475 samples for COVID 19. In an earlier statement on February 10, the ministry issued a new public health warning, saying that the pandemic situation in Iraq was “very worrisome.” The ministry said that infections, including serious cases, were rising quickly amid weak compliance with prevention measures, especially social distancing and mask-wearing. The ministry warned that downplaying the pandemic will exacerbate the situation and increase infections beyond the available capacity of hospitals.
On February 7, the head of the General Tax Authority, Shakir al-Zubaidi, announced that Iraq generated IQD3.8 trillion in tax revenues in 2020, an increase of 800 billion dinars from 2019. Zubaidi also stated that the Tax Authority developed a plan to increase revenues in 2021 to IQD6 trillion. The plan eliminates tax assessors to reduce chances for fraud and extortion, allows taxpayers to use tax self-assessments, and opens new automated centers where citizens can pay taxes directly. Zubaidi added that the tax revenues could reach IQD8 trillion once the system is fully automated.
On February 7, the Ministry of Agriculture approved a plan to export 5,500 tons of potatoes to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The deal, which marks early signs of a revival in commercial ties between Iraq and the Gulf States, would send 5,000 tons of potatoes to Saudi Arabia via the Arar border crossing, which reopened last November, and 500 tons to Kuwait through the Safwan border post.
On February 10, the Ministry of Interior announced the deportation of 32,000 foreign workers, as part of a campaign to monitor illegal immigration and protect local jobs. Ministry spokesman Major General Khaled al-Muhanna said that up to 95% of foreign labor in Iraq was not properly authorized. Muhanna added that the ministry’s coordination with the Directorate for Combating Economic Crime also seized 3,000 vehicles carrying banned imports. The ministry did not specify the period during which authorities conducted these arrests and seizures.
On February 11, dozens of tomato farmers protested the illegal import of Iranian tomatoes in Basra province, blockading the international highway with trucks filled with the crop. Speaking to Rudaw, farmers complained about merchants smuggling cheap Iranian tomatoes across the border, paying $200-$1,500 in bribes for each truck and undercutting local farmers’ ability to market their produce. The protests came days after Prime Minister Kadhimi formed a task force involving the National Security Agency, the Directorate for Combating Economic Crime, and the Ministry of Agriculture, to protect Iraqi goods by monitoring the markets for smuggled agricultural products. Meanwhile, the head of the Border Ports Authority, Omar al-Waeli said the authority was coordinating with the Joint Operations Command and other security agencies to enhance border security and restrict the movement of contraband to protect local products. In particular, Waeli said he recently met with local tomato farmers in al-Zubair district of Basra, known for being the center of tomato production, who requested a ban on tomato imports.
On February 11, UAE’s Dana Gas said the Iraqi government entered into talks with the Pearl Consortium, of which Dana is a member, to purchase natural gas from the Khor Mor gas field in the Kurdistan Region. The proposed deal would allow Baghdad to reduce its dependence on gas imports from Iran. Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward said that the company is in talks with several buyers for the anticipated surplus gas from an expansion project at Khor Mor, which aims to add 500 million cubic feet per day to current production in two phases. Allman-Ward added that Baghdad has expressed interest in the project’s “second train”, which will start production in late 2024. The Pearl Consortium is seeking to borrow $250 million from the U.S. government to finance the expansion project that will increase production to 940 million cubic feet per day by 2025.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from February 4, 2021 - February 11, 2021The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
|02/04/21||Al-Hawija, west of Kirkuk||0||0|
|02/07/21||Al-Musayyib, Babylon province||0||0|
|02/07/21||Al-Wahda, southern Baghdad||0||0|
|02/07/21||Samarra, Salah ad-Din province||0||0|
|02/08/21||Adhamiya, northern Baghdad||0||0|
|02/09/21||Al-Banuk Bridge, northeastern Baghdad||0||0|
|02/10/21||Yusufiya, south of Baghdad||0||0|
|02/10/21||Rumaila, Basra province||0||2|
|02/11/21||Latifiya highway, south of Baghdad||0||0|
Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.
Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.